#DTM500 Era 5: 2012-2019 Further growth and new technology
At the Lausitzring, last weekend, the DTM celebrated its 500th race since the series was founded in 1984. A perfect occasion, therefore, to look back upon the series’ history, the men and machines that stood out (or sometimes didn’t) and recall some remarkable races.
In the fifth and final part, we look at the years from 2012 until 2019. In 2012, the series got off to a fresh start as BMW came to join the grid that Audi and Mercedes-Benz had been filling between them for the seven previous years. Moreover, the switch from four-door saloon cars to coupés was a clear visible sign of the new era in the series. The new standard monocoque was the basis of the new cars – combined with an increased number of common parts to enhance safety and reduce costs.
In 2019, the DTM started another chapter as two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engines were introduced to replace the four-litre V8 units that had been used since the series’ comeback in 2000. In 2019, the DTM also welcomed Aston Martin as the first non-German brand to race in the series since Alfa Romeo in the years from 1993-1996.
A winning comeback
BMW hadn’t had an official factory involvement in the DTM since the 1992 season, but it was well-prepared for its official comeback to the series in 2012. In the second event of the season at Lausitzring, Bruno Spengler claimed the first win for the returnee. The Canadian went on to score three more victories that year and sealed the drivers’ title in the finale at Hockenheim. The Schnitzer squad, one of the most successful German outfits, won the teams’ title while BMW also claimed the manufacturers’ crown. With five race wins (four for Spengler, one for Augusto Farfus) and as many pole positions (three for Spengler, two for Farfus), BMW drivers won half of the year’s races and pole positions.
Successful Comeback: Bruno Spengler won the 2012 championship for BMW
From Russia with love
In 2013, the DTM had a race at Moscow Raceway for the first time. Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller, who went on to win that year’s championship, won the inaugural event. The track in Volokolamsk proved to be a happy hunting ground for the German as he also won one of the two races in 2015, the other winner being Mercedes driver Pascal Wehrlein. In 2014, it was BMW driver Maxime Martin who became the first Belgian to win a DTM race, something neither his father Jean-Michel nor the 1987 series’ champion Eric van de Poele – one of only two drivers ever to claim the DTM title without winning a single race – or any of the other Belgians who raced in the series, for that matter, had ever achieved before.
Young and quick
Straight out of Formula 3, young German Pascal Wehrlein already scored a DTM race win at Lausitzring in 2014, his rookie season in the series. The next year, he went on to win the title with Mercedes, becoming the youngest-ever DTM champion. After that success, he raced in Formula 1 for two seasons before making his comeback in the DTM last year. In 2014, BMW’s Marco Wittmann won the DTM title in what was only his second DTM season, having become rookie of the year in 2013.
Young and quick: Marco Wittmann in 2014
No Audi driver had won a DTM race at the Norisring in Nuremberg since Laurent Aïello with the privately-entered Abt-Audi TT in 2002. Finally, Audi’s jinx in its home race, just an hour up the Autobahn from the corporate headquarters in Ingolstadt, seemed to have come to an end after Mattias Ekström was first across the line in 2013. However, Ekström was stripped of his victory after the race when it was discovered that several water bottles had been emptied into the pockets of his race suit in post-race celebrations. This was considered as a breach of parc fermé regulations and the Swede was excluded as a result. The team’s appeal was turned down, but the other drivers weren’t promoted as there was nothing to say against Ekström’s on-track performance. As a result, the race remained without a winner, for the second time in DTM history after Harald Grohs’s exclusion from the second round in 1984.
Mattias Ekström couldn’t celebrate his victory for too long: his race suit was too wet
Doubling up the action
From 2001 until 2014, DTM events only had one feature race, sometimes preceded by a brief sprint race. For 2015, the format was changed to two full races per weekend. In the past, from 1988 until 1996, and also in the comeback year 2000, the DTM already had a double-header format, but with the races run back-to-back, only interrupted by a brief repair break. From 2015, it was decided to run one race on Saturday and one race on Sunday, providing more action for the spectators and making the race weekend more attractive.
‘Schieb’ ihn raus!’
In the DTM, it is possible to include radio communication between drivers and teams into the TV broadcast. As a result, the most famous radio-call in the series’ history could be heard live by a worldwide audience. ‘Timo, schieb’ ihn raus’, or ‘push him out’, was the call that Audi driver Timo Scheider received from the pit wall during the Sunday race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in 2015. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Audi’s head of motorsport at the time, was unhappy with the on-track antics of Mercedes drivers Wehrlein and Wickens and instructed Scheider to push his opponents off the track. Indeed, Scheider ran into the back of Wickens’s car and the Canadian collided with Wehrlein. The action, referred to as a ‘snooker move’ by the English TV commentator, resulted into retirement of both Mercedes drivers. Audi received a fine of 200,000 Euros, the highest in DTM history, and Dr. Ullrich was banned from the pit lane until the end of the sea
A solid debut
René Rast was enjoying a barbecue with friends at his manager’s place on the Saturday of the 2016 Zandvoort DTM weekend when he received a phone call to ask whether he could race one of Audi’s DTM cars on the following day as regular driver Adrien Tambay had become injured. It didn’t take long for Rast to hit the road for the three-hour drive to the Dutch North Sea coast, where he drove his first DTM race and finished 18th. He embarked on a full-season campaign the next year and won the title in his first full season.
A big shunt and a unique series
It was also René Rast who probably had the biggest accident of the DTM’s era from 2012 until 2019 to date. Following the restart after a safety car intervention in the first race at Lausitzring 2018, he tangled with Loïc Duval and clipped a kerbstone, after which the car flipped on its roof and barrel-rolled to a halt. Rast walked away unscathed, but his car was damaged beyond immediate repair and the German was sidelined from the race on Sunday. Later that season, Rast established a record by scoring six consecutive race wins. At the Nürburgring, Spielberg and Hockenheim, the Audi driver won all races and came within four points from winning the title.
Friends, rather than guests
2018 was the first year in which we saw the tradition of one-off entries or so-called guest drives being revived. The first driver to have this status can rightfully be referred to as a DTM legend with two titles and 23 race wins to his name: Swede Mattias Ekström, who had called time on his impressive DTM career, was given the chance to say farewell to his many fans in a one-off at the Hockenheim season opener. In Misano, Italian hero Alex Zanardi famously raced as a guest starter and surprised everyone by finishing fifth in the second race in torrential rain. At Spielberg, multiple world rally champion Sébastien Ogier competed as a guest driver (or friend of the series) in both races. This year, MotoGP ace Andrea Dovizioso raced in the DTM at Misano.
Saturday (and Sunday) night fever
In 2003, the DTM had had its qualifying at the Nürburgring on Saturday evening in the dark, but actually racing in the dark was a first for the seventh round of the 2018 season at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy. The nice and balmy August evenings that had been expected (it was Italy, after all) turned out to be rather rainy instead, but the action was spectacular and the sight of DTM cars, headlights ablaze, racing in the dark was fantastic!
(Almost) everybody is a winner
In 2015, 13 of the 24 participating drivers in the DTM managed to score at least one race win. No other season in history of the series produced more different winners.
Rast and Wittmann on top
With 15 race wins each between 2013 and the Lausitzring round of 2019, René Rast and Marco Wittmann are the most successful drivers of this era in the DTM. Audi is the most successful brand with 47 wins from BMW with 33 and Mercedes-Benz with 27.